by Chris Swartz, Langley Rams
The Hamilton Hurricanes came into McLeod Athletic Park Stadium looking for a fight and the Langley Rams answered the bell, punching their ticket to the National Championship game with a convincing 39-14 victory over the previously undefeated Ontario Conference Champions.
Nick Agnoletto’s return of the games opening kickoff put the ball into quarterback Duncan Little’s hands with good field position at the Rams 40 yard line, seven plays later Little hit Jevon Cottoy with a 13 yard touchdown pass and the Rams had a 7-0 lead just four minutes into the game.
Hamilton struck back on their first possession and quarterback Jake Marquette’s 59 yard pass to running back Jevante Stanley set up a one yard quarterback run to make the score 7-7 with 9:17 remaining in the quarter.
Cottoy showed his big leg by launching a 54 yard punt single and then Jayden Sheilan, who kicked a record setting six field goals in last weeks Cullen Cup game, split the uprights from 26 yards out to give the Rams an 11-7 lead with 1:31 to go in the opening frame.
The Rams controlled the balance of play in the second as Duncan Little spread the ball around effectively and wore down the depth challenged Hurricanes with 23 plays in the quarter, Hamilton ran 10 plays and were sacked on three of them. Little hit Agnoletto with a 27 yard pass, then again with a 12 yard toss that took the Rams into the red zone, Cottoy caught an 18 yard throw from Little and two plays later ran it in from a yard out to send the Rams into the half time break with an 18-7 lead.
Rams special teams had another stellar outing and came up big early in the second half, a pair of penalties on the final play of the second quarter had the Rams kicking off from their own 20 yard line, it looked as if the Hurricanes, trailing by only 11, would get the ball in good field position to start the third quarter but the Rams Ryan Barthelson forced a fumble on the kick return and Kairo Hassan jumped on the loose ball at the Rams 40 yard line, Little took advantage of the turnover and capped off a nine play 70 yard drive with a his own one yard touchdown run to make the score 24-7 with 10 minutes remaining in the third.
The scrappy Hurricanes would not go away and got some help on the following possession when Charles Nwoye was assessed a 25 yard penalty for an aggressive sack, a one yard touchdown run by Jevante Stanley cut the Rams lead to 24-14 with 4:55 to go in the third, but the Hurricanes had little left in the tank and didn’t pose a threat from that point forward.
Little went back to his favorite target and hit Cottoy with three passes that covered 60 yards, the third an 18 yard touchdown toss that made the score 31-14 with 10 minutes to go in the game, the Didsbury Alberta native was not done with his fellow Albertan yet and four minutes later hit Cottoy with a 42 yard scoring strike to give the former Prairie Football Conference Rookie of the Year his fourth touchdown of the day, Jayden Sheilan rounded out the scoring with an 85 yard single on the ensuing kickoff to make the final score 39-14.
Little completed 20 of his 32 pass attempts for 292 yards and three touchdowns, his favorite target was Cottoy, who caught nine passes for a whopping 180 yards and three touchdowns, he also added a rushing touchdown and a punt single to give him a CJFL Playoff record of 25 points on the day.
While Cottoy was making the big plays Nick Agnoletto, who scooted around to make four catches for 59 yards, and the smooth running Liam Stewart, 3 for 37, were clutch for the Rams in key situations.
Joe Carter turned in another workman like effort with 41 yards rushing on 11 carries, Jacob Stebbings came into the game in the fourth and ran for 67 yards on 10 carries.
The Rams defensive unit was once again solid in the win, Colten DeJong and AJ Blackwell led the way with 19 defensive points each and the Rams sacked Marquette six times, Dejong and Charles Nwoye each with a pair, Blackwell and Partap Sandhu with one each. Dawson Marchant had the Rams lone interception and thrilled the rowdy Rams crowd by taking it back 84 yards for a touchdown, however the thrill was short lived as the score was negated by a holding call.
The Rams won the battle of turnovers with their defense and special teams forcing seven Hurricanes turnovers, the Rams only gave the ball back three times, two of them on downs.
Howie Zaron’s squad now heads to Saskatoon for the Canadian Bowl National Championship game versus the Saskatoon Hilltops on November 17th, it will be the third time in the past seven years that the Rams and Hilltops have met in the title game, the Hilltops defeated the Rams in 2012 and 2014, both games were in Langley.